Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Post#148 H.P. Lovecraft

I just read most of a collection of stories by Howard Phillips Lovecraft an author I'd heard much of and read nothing. Writers whose work I've enjoyed have often reverentially referred to him in their notes and I was interested to see what the mentor's quality was.

It was fascinating stuff and I discovered that Western Australia features in the story, The Shadow Out of Time. At 22 degrees, 3' 14" South latitude and 125 degrees, 0' 39" East longitude is supposed to be the remains of an ancient city established over 150 million years in the past by a non-human race. He introduces it through a letter from a correspondent whose address is 49 Dampier Street, Pilbarra. This is a conflation of the name of the town of Dampier and the Pilbara region (including a still-common misspelling).

I also found the foundations of many of the themes to be found in later science fiction; ancient aliens, alien possession, reanimation of the dead, lost languages and scripts. There's an interesting yarn called The Colour Out of Space which prefigures The Blob...a meteor-borne infestation.

Although generally admirable, Lovecraft has a style which, when you read a lot of his work at one hit, becomes unintendedly funny. The words "horror", gruesome", "hideous" and suchlike are liberally spread through every story; he seemed to think that using these terms would induce the described tremors in the reader; I felt they broke the spell by being constantly noticeable. In his honour I produce the following tribute:

"In that year of 1932 I worked in an architect's office in Arkham with Ashley Clarkson-Smythe. My prospects seemed good but a most hideous event soon destroyed my nerves. I entered the office one morning in unwitting good cheer and opened the top-left drawer of my draughtsman's desk and beheld a most abominable spectacle. I was confronted by a sight of such nefandous and abyssal cruelty that I was hard-pressed to restrain myself from uttering a demented scream.

In the drawer was an artefact of a fiendish and inhuman mind. I can barely force myself to describe it - but I must! (The reader has, by now, suspected the nature of the atrocity.) Some filthy, perverted, daemon-possessed thrall of dark powers and worshipper of contumacious and strifeful gods had performed an abomination of the kind only hinted at in the Necronomicon of the mad Arab, Abdul AlHazred. The thrice-accursed villain had bent my favourite paper-clip!!"


Anastasia F-B said...

Great post! I hope you don't mind but I would like to add my own assessment of the man, as a companion to yours.

Retarius said...

This is your blog! Write what you please...well..just don't get us nicked.

Of course your post has surpassed mine as analysis..I did read notes in the book about his life and noticed that he seemed to have pottered around in North-East USA all his life. Poor wretch didn't seem to have much fun.

Anastasia F-B said...

No, very little.

Actually, Retarius, this quite an old piece, originally posted on the Pagan site and added soon after I began Ana the Imp. I simply had to post it here also when I saw that you had an interest in the man. :-)